Doctors Hospital employees get vaccines after months on the front lines

The needle may be tiny, but it's packed with hope -- the kind of hope that respiratory therapist Joann Inners has been waiting for.

"I'm seriously hopeful that this will change everything pretty quickly, I hope," Inners said.

She's among the caregivers receiving their first dose of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine at Doctors Hospital in Sarasota. It was almost a year ago when they treated the state's very first coronavirus patient.

"It is kind of surreal that we're getting the vaccine, it's Christmas Eve. A lot of emotions today, good emotions," said Chief Nursing Officer Todd Haner.

As part of the state's vaccine rollout on Wednesday, Governor Ron DeSantis signed an executive order which mandates who gets it in the initial phase. 

MORE: Florida’s first hospitalized COVID-19 patient discharged from Sarasota hospital

He prioritizes long-term care facility residents and staff, health care personnel with direct patient contact, and persons over 65.

Gov. DeSantis says shots for the 65 and up group could be available as early as next week, but he also urged them to be patient and said some kind of sign up list would be announced soon.

"I would say please get it. We won't achieve herd immunity if we don't all get it," Haner said.

Meanwhile, state data shows at least 68,000 people have begun receiving the vaccine in Florida. The governor says more shipments will be coming in weekly.

If you feel sick:

The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions around the clock. Questions may also be emailed to Email responses will be sent during call center hours.

LINK: Florida's COVID-19 website

CORONAVIRUS IN FLORIDA: What you need to know


Map of known COVID-19 cases:

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